Prescott firefighters worked from old forecast - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Prescott firefighters worked from weather forecast 7 hours old


Fire incident commanders were working with a seven-hour-old forecast at the time the Granite Mountain Hotshots were overrun and killed by a fast-moving wildfire in Yarnell.

According to records from the National Weather Service office in Flagstaff, a "spot forecast" was requested by officials fighting the fire at 9:39 a.m. Sunday.

The forecast was provided just six minutes later, at 9:45 a.m.

Weather conditions for the day called for isolated thunderstorm activity, including light winds out of the east, but then shifting and intensifying in the afternoon.

A Los Angeles Times report confirms that the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew was briefed that morning on the forecast.

Archive information from a weather tracking website reveals the two closest weather reporting stations to Yarnell are in Stanton to the south and Peeples Valley to the north.

Both stations Sunday morning reported sustained winds from the west and south between 6 and 13 mph between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The station at Peeples Valley, however, indicated a dramatic 180-degree wind shift at 4:24 p.m., and winds began blowing from the north and east.

Those winds blowing down from the approaching storm cell fanned the flames unpredictably, trapping the doomed firefighters.

Some wildfires have a meteorologist assigned to the fire incident command center working side-by-side with fire officials.

That had not happened with the Yarnell Hill Fire yet.

Ken Waters with the Phoenix office of the National Weather Service tells us an IMET or incident meteorologist is requested on scene when a fire reaches type-one status.

"They're really bringing it down to a very local level. That's the key here," said Waters.

An IMET is specifically trained both in climatologic and fire behavior. There are just more than 100 of them in the country.

"They're there to serve the firefighters, and they're there for their safety," said Waters.

Monday morning, more than twelve hours after the deaths of the hotshots, a meteorologist was dispatched from Reno, NV, to assist with the Yarnell Hill Fire.

"My focus is here on the safety of the firefighters now," said meteorologist Jim Wallman. "There is a meteorologist coming in with the investigation team. I'll meet with him briefly but he'll be conducting the investigation."

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